It is now clear that in the United States, as well as most of the rest of the world, we are now headed toward the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis: getting back to normal. This will undoubtedly happen over a period of time, and we can already see new cultural norms kicking in, from the adoption of face masks to the cancellation of handshakes.
As we return to stores on a regular basis, there will be a range of ways retailers can help employees, partners, and customers to remain safe and healthy. Here at b8ta, we wanted to define a gold standard that would guide us as we reopened b8ta and Forum by b8ta stores (at the time of writing, we are open to the public in Austin and Houston, TX, but the latest can be found here).
b8ta team members spent many hours over the last few weeks tracking down the COVID-19 related policies released by the 200 largest retailers in the country. As our researchers toiled, it became clear that there was no clearing house of information, making it hard for us to confidently make the right decisions.
And if it was hard for us, it would be impossible for regular shoppers.
Which is why we built ShopSafely.co.
The purpose of ShopSafely.co is to help anyone to do two important things:
- Get direct access to the health and safety plans of a range of different retailers, all in one place; and
- Get a standardized view into how different retailers’ approaches stack up
When you land on ShopSafely.co, you can quickly find any store that is currently in our database by simply clicking into the search bar next to the word Retailers, and typing its name. You’ll see a ShopSafely Score (explained below), as well as four important measures (of the fourteen we collect):
- Contactless pickup: can you order online and pick up your goods without having to go indoors
- Mask required for Associates: are all employees inside required to be wearing a mask to limit the spread of germs
- Mask required for Customers: are you required to also wear a mask to limit the spread of germs
- Traffic limited: does the retailer have an express plan for limiting the number of customers allowed inside, to help with the logistics of social distancing
By clicking on the retailer name, you can find out more about their specific plan. In the top right corner you will find a blue box labeled ‘COVID-19 Policy’, which will open a separate tab containing the retailer’s own posted policy, from their website. You’ll then find three sections of details, which are exactly the same across all retailers:
- Convenience: this is intended to express how easy it is to shop with this retailer, rather than how healthy the environment may be.
- Safety Protocols: this section goes more deeply into the specifics of measures the retailer is taking to protect your health. Although we show fourteen metrics, they do not all apply to every store: Fitting Rooms Closed, for instance, would only apply to stores that actually provide fitting rooms under normal circumstances.
- Return Processing: this section lets you know whether the retailer has suspended or significantly curtailed returns
The ShopSafely Score is calculated by dividing (1) the number of metrics in the Safety Protocols section that apply to a retailer by (2) the number of green check marks, then placing that score on a letter scale. For instance, while retailers with checkout stands (think: groceries) would need to have a plexiglass shield to up their score, retailers without checkout stands (think: Apple Stores or b8ta stores) would not.
To be clear, consumers shouldn’t necessarily look for 100% attainment and an A+ score. Some consumers may, for instance, find a requirement that they have their temperature checked as they enter, or that they wear a face mask, to be onerous. The ShopSafely Score simply ranks implementation of the policies that, together, deliver the highest level of protection, without adjusting for personal preference.
b8ta has used this research to ensure that we are reopening our stores using the best approaches we can glean from industry leaders. You won’t find us on the list because we are not - yet! - among the 200 largest retailers in the country, but this research has helped us provide confidence to our employees, our partners, and our customers that we are doing everything we can to provide a safe and healthy environment.
You can help too! Not only do we offer the option to sign up for our email updates, we also encourage you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have suggestions, questions, or comments on anything you see at shopsafely.co.
The move back outside is going to be slow and a little bit scary. Hopefully this resource will be a help in choosing the right places to visit with peace of mind.